Infinite combinations of hooks and weights are used in conjunction with swivels and specialized knots to form surf fishing rigs. The options are endless and personal preference often takes precedence over traditional rigging styles. That said, plenty of normalized, trusted techniques are used to create deadly surf fishing setups. The style chosen is dependent on the bait or lure and the general situation. Taking traditional rigging techniques and adapting them to add or remove hooks and weights is also a great approach to adapting technique for the given situation.
Rigging Baits on the Bottom
Bait fished on the ocean floor is the classic approach to surf fishing. Use a heavy weight and a baited hook for a cast and wait strategy that keeps your bait in the water until a fish strikes. The style is especially effective on sandy bottoms and while fishing off a pier. Rigging is also relatively simple and the system makes it easy to replace the bait as needed.
Here’s how the system functions:
Attach the end of your shock leader to a pyramid sinker that acts as the primary weight. Attach the sinker on a slider sleeve and tie the end of the leader to a two-way swivel like the Berkley McMahon swivels. Adding a red bead as a stopper for the weight is also optional with the placement just above the swivel. Run your primary leader off the two-way swivel with 18-20 inches of 40-50 lb test line that attaches to another swivel like the Berkley Cross-Lok snap swivel. Add a small float before the swivel if desired as well -this will elevate the bait off the bottom. Attach your hook to the clip and add the bait for a complete rig.
Fishing a bottom rig like this works really well in high traffic fish zones. Piers, jetties and other areas where fish frequently cruise in search of forage are ideal for the sit and wait approach. Get your bait in the zone and sit back until the action comes your way. The same rig is also effective with soft baits. Use a scented model with something that closely resembles the local forage. Imitating local species is easy with a scented soft bait from Berkley’s Gulp! Series. The Gulp! Alive! Minnow, Gulp! Swimming Mullet, Gulp! Alive! Shrimp and Gulp! Alive! Crabby are just a few productive options for fishing the surf.
Carolina and Texas Rigs
These classic rigs are popular among freshwater bass anglers, but they have an important place in the surf fishing world. Both rely on a sliding weight with the key difference being where the weight stops.
On the Texas Rig, a cone style weight is added to the line without any security. The cone will slide right up against the hook eye while fishing. This makes it a quick and easy way to add weight against any soft bait. Start with a single cone and add more as needed to reach the desired weight. This is great for bouncing a Gulp! sandworm along the bottom or swimming a soft bait fish through the surf.
The Carolina Rig places a small distance between the soft bait and the weight. The setup is similar to pegging weight above the hook, but it uses a slightly more sophisticated and streamlined approach. Slide the weight on the line and add a bead as a stopper. Tie the line to a 2-way Berkley Ball Bearing swivel to compete theweight stopping mechanism. On the free end of the swivel, add the final segment of leader and the Gulp! Alive! soft bait. The distance used depends on how much separation is desired -12-18 inches is most common.
The Carolina Rig works especially well for crabs and shrimp fished on a slow retrieve off the bottom. Try the rig with a Berkley Gulp! Mantis Shrimp and cast it out on a big sand bottom zone. Let the weight hit bottom and scan the water for any sign of action. Give the rig a bump and twitch every few seconds to draw attention. In areas with species cruising the bottoms in search of crabs and shrimp, this simple technique can deliver big results.
Vertical vs Horizontal Jig Fishing
Straight jigs and soft baits converted to jigs are deadly in the surf and in just about any other fishing situation. Gulp! style soft baits are fished like jigs through the addition of a jig head. The head of the soft bait is pressed into the hollow side of the jig head and crimped with pliers. This means Berkley Fusion19 Bucktail Jigs and Gulp! baitfish can essentially fish in the same style.
Vertical jigging is effective with bucktail jigs and soft baits, but the traditional jigs really take the cake here. Vertical jigging involves lowering the jig to a specific depth where it will remain. Lift and lower the rod to make the jig dance and the natural currents will move the bucktail and create a meal that looks enticing to fish.
Horizontal jigging requires a retrieve to maintain a swimming motion and it works great with both Berkley soft baits and bucktail jigs.
Berkley’s Bucktail Jigs even have a second hook eye positioned on top specifically for this reason. While horizontal jigging continue adding motion with the rod, but maintain a retrieve to swim the setup through the water column.
Jigs, spoons, jerkbaits, plugs and other lures utilize a direct knot connection. The leader is typically tapered with a shock section at the butt to absorb pressure and prevent break-offs. This does depend on the angler preference however and in some cases, fishing a straight section of braided line is also used for finesse fishing.
In heavy surf, an 80-pound section of shock leader that is tapered down to 40-pounds at the lure makes for an
excellent choice. The heavy shock section will handle the abuse and protect the remainder of the line. Use an albright or double Uni knot to connect the heavy shock leader to the remainder of the leader.
The knot used at the actual lure or hook varies based on preference but a Palomar knot is hard to beat for strength. A Uni Knot is also rock solid and works especially well for bait hooks and soft bait hooks.
Practice rigging at home to perfect your knots and rig in advance whenever possible. Working in the field is always more difficult and tying knots without a rush leaves little room for error. Great knots mean your Berkley Gulp! and Fusion19 Bucktail jigs will last for numerous fish and many days of fishing in the surf.
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